FIXED: Truth About 1952 UFOs Over D.C.
“War in Korea and here we are chasing little green men.”
That was the last thing Caveman heard from his wingman, Trigger, before they each jogged to the hanger for his own fighter jet. He had said something expected and serious to set the right tone but felt the same.
“You got her ready for the dance, Airman Wells?”
Wells was colored but took good care of his airplane. Caveman had come back from the war with no patience for anyone who judged the worth of a person by his race. A bunch of mutts had conquered the Aryan supermen of Hitler.
“Yes sir. She’s ready for anything.”
Caveman chuckled under his breath. “Guess we’ll find out.”
He had already begun a quick walk-around inspection. He trusted Airman Wells and did not expect to find any problems. It was a ritual exchange of responsibility.
He always used this time to remind himself that his new baby was thirsty. She ran through fuel and ammo faster than his last wife ran through gin and cash. Faster than his P-47 Thunderbolt, affectionately known as the “Jug,” had in the skies over Europe. He missed the old girl. The Jug, not his ex.
The illuminated F-94B was not pretty, but his Jug had not won any beauty contests either. He seemed fated to be married to ugly ass-kicking brutes.
She was a long, lean, boat-nosed, two-seat jet interceptor with straight wings and fuel tanks on the tips. She was also the first American all-weather fighter, boasting her very own on-board radar and a magical Instrument Landing System that promised final approaches without the pilot even seeing the runway. Caveman did not know what to think about that but there was a fun new feature his Jug could only dream about. He could dump jet fuel into the tailpipe and rocket forward with an impressive 6000 pounds of thrust.
A new trick Mr. Lockheed called an “afterburner.”
The F-94 was designed to intercept Soviet bombers flying in from over the pole. Caveman knew her legs were too short and she lacked a heavyweight punch for that mission, but this was the jet age. In no time at all American designers and industry would provide something better. The F-94s would become Air National Guard hand-me-downs, then go the way of the Jug. Even so, the new airplane had earned the trust of Caveman and he was looking forward to testing his ship - and himself - against the spooks.
Major Clark Ruffler knew he was not much to look at, either. He had a compact build made to fit into a cockpit. The frame beneath his drab dark green flight suit looked like it had been cobbled together from spare parts. He had a barrel chest, long arms, but legs that seemed disproportionately short. His eyebrows met over the bridge of his nose.
The call sign was inevitable.
“Caveman” was painted under his name beneath the front of the canopy.
Behind, where his radar operator performed his voodoo, “Lt. Harold Brown” had “Brownie” painted below his name. His habit of taking home movies with a wind-up Kodak coupled with his name made his call sign inevitable, too.
“You didn’t short Ma Deuce any ammo, did you, Airman Wells?”
“No, sir. Four Browning M3s, 300 rounds each with tracers.”
Brownie made the sound of a man wanting someone else to know he was biting his tongue. Tracers allowed the pilot to watch his stream of bullets and adjust his aim. It also advertised his presence. Radar was supposed to make the Mark One Eyeball obsolete.
Not as long as Caveman was in the front seat.
The Browning M2 .50 caliber machine gun, coveted by men in all branches of service, had supposedly been upgraded to an aviation M3 model since the war. Caveman had scored four kills over Europe with the previous model. Any .50 would always be “Ma Deuce” to him. But his Jug had carried twice the number of machine guns and he was skeptical that trading half his guns for a higher rate of fire was a good deal.
Times were changing and the future seemed to be rushing into the past, leaving men like Caveman stranded in the last war. If he wanted to stay in the fraternity of aviators he would have to adapt. But if rumors about radar guided missiles were true, the future belonged to Brownie. Caveman would end his career as a glorified cab driver while Brownie scored kills from fifty miles away.
Tonight, however, belonged to Caveman.
“Marylin Monroe came by and kissed every bullet for luck,” said Airman Wells.
“Is that right?” Caveman said, more to himself than Wells, as he thumped the fuselage like a doctor thumping the belly of a patient. “She might have stuck around. But I don’t think we’re going to need it tonight. Just a spook hunt.”
“Ah,” Wells answered.
Caveman climbed the ladder and settled into the cockpit and Wells helped strap him in. He began making his nest by finding a place in the cramped space for things he might need in a hurry. Behind him, Brownie was doing the same. He put on his helmet, fastened his mask, and watched Wells remove the ladder. He lowered the canopy.
Now it was for real.
As he and his wingman taxied to the runway, the brain behind the joined eyebrows was busy. Based upon an unofficial briefing a couple of hours prior and the official one several minutes ago, it was piecing together the events of the evening.
The two jets of Shirley flight had been scrambled at 2300 hours - 11 p.m. civilian time.
Trigger had a new baby at home. It would be asleep or maybe crying for its mama. Babies did a lot of bellyaching, according to the new papa. Brownie had a new bride: fast asleep or awake and missing him? Caveman had an ill-tempered dachshund named “Kraut” the neighbor lady took care of when he was gone.
None of them knew America had been invaded.
Visual sightings of the spooks had begun a little after 8 o’clock that night by the crew of a National Airlines flight. The captain and a stewardess in the four-prop DC-7 had reported to air traffic controllers at Washington National Airport something like the “light of a lit cigarette” flying near their plane. The estimated speed was 100 miles per hour.
At 2022 hours controllers at National had duly alerted nearby Andrews Air Force Base. However, construction had temporarily brought a halt to operations there. The nearest interceptors were all here, in Delaware.
About a half hour later the aerial display over Washington D.C. had been confirmed by radar at both National and Andrews. The returns were confusing, but controllers did have to vector a commercial airliner around a large unknown aircraft in its path.
At 2052 hours a dozen solid targets had been confirmed over the nation’s capitol. Some of them were moving a Hell of a lot faster than 100 miles per hour.
At 2103 hours the Andrews Approach Controller had placed an informal call to New Castle Air Force Base in Delaware. Since Andrews was temporarily closed, it was the first line of air defense for the Capitol. The latest F-94 interceptors were at New Castle. The alert crew on duty included Caveman and Brownie; and his wingman Trigger and his radar operator, Nails.
The call had been received by a bored enlisted man with the weekend duty. There being nothing else going on, he made some calls of his own, then shared his findings with the officer in charge. Strange lights in the sky were not unusual these days but the airman was showing an instinct for self-preservation more than initiative. If the spooks turned out to be something more than pretty lights this time, he would not want to have to explain why he had sat on the Andrews call.
The alert crew had been brought into the briefing room and unofficially informed of the events unfolding over Washington.
“Sky spooks, huh?” Caveman had asked. “I say pull chocks and go splash us some flying saucers. Maybe they’re allies with the Chicoms now.”
Of course, that was not going to happen without the official call from the Pentagon.
Not that there were going to be any flying saucers to splash into the Potomac. This was old news. Just last weekend it had been the same. Jets had found nothing. There would be no fighters scrambled tonight, Caveman had predicted. Just some lights in the sky. Sure, they reflected radar, but the brass probably knew what was going on, he had assured Brownie.
As the unofficial briefing was ending, two intelligence officers - an Air Force Major and a Navy Lieutenant - were arriving at National. They were met by reporters from Time and Life magazines who were already watching the show on the radar screens over the shoulders of air traffic controllers.
It was sometime after 2200 hours before the Pentagon Command Center and Eastern Air Defense Force were aware of the crisis. By then, the invasion had been going on for two hours. Good thing they aren’t Russian bombers, Caveman thought as he passed the half-way point of his taxi.
An hour ago, while generals dithered, Caveman had been stretched out over three chairs looking at a dog-eared Modern Man magazine, wishing he had somebody besides Kraut to go home to.
Somebody like the blond in the bathing suit, he thought as the image intruded upon the current situation.
“That’s what we’re fighting for, Brownie,” he said over the intercom as they neared the end of their taxi.
“Whatever you say,” Brownie answered.
At 2253 hours the blips and lights had disappeared after putting on a three-hour show over the White House and Capitol building observed from the air, ground and on radar at two different facilities: one civilian, one military.
Seven minutes after the show was over, at 2300 hours - not too many minutes ago - the call had finally come from the Pentagon to scramble the alert jets. The briefing officer had plugged the small holes in the unofficial information and a pair of two-man crews jogged to their fighters.
Their orders were to observe and report.
Under no circumstances were the pilots to engage the unidentified objects without authorization. That had been repeated and Caveman was certain the emphasis was for his benefit.
Typical, he thought with disgust. They had waited until the bogies were gone before scrambling interceptors. If there had been something buzzing the Capitol, they were on their way back to Mars. Or Peking.
Even so, he felt the adrenaline as he heard the tower clear him to the runway. Somebody had a reason to take the spooks seriously. After all, there was a war going on.
“Shirley Red 1, cleared runway niner,” he responded to the order from the tower. He made the 90 degree left turn at the end of the taxiway without a pause and then another as he lined up for takeoff. By now, he had already been cleared and never stopped rolling as he advanced his throttle and accelerated down the runway. The two-ship formation would climb to the east then turn south and make the 100 mile trip from New Castle Air Force Base in Delaware to Washington D.C..
With luck, maybe the spooks would come back.
Just 15 minutes later, Caveman and Trigger checked in with Washington National control, code named Eggnog. It had been determined that they were getting the best radar returns so they were running the show. Civilian air traffic controllers would look at their radar scopes and vector Shirley flight to the spooks. All they had to do was point them in the right direction then Brownie and his all-seeing radar would take it from there.
Caveman switched channels to a military frequency and hoped the controllers had been given the same one.
He wondered if somebody had had the sense to remove the reporters.
“Eggnog, Shirley Red 1,” he called. “Waiting for vectors.”
“Shirley Red 1, Eggnog. Radar shows unidentified objects in restricted airspace over Washington D.C.. It’s hard to say… we get one, then we get a dozen or more. Then they’re gone. Speeds ah…”
Caveman waited until he could not stand it.
“Eggnog, Shirley Red 1 didn’t copy speeds.” These civilian controllers were used to keeping airplanes away from each other, not putting them on a collision course.
“Shirley Red 1, speeds look like eight-zero knots.”
“Shirley Red 1 copy that. Eighty knots.” So the problem would be how to get slow enough to get a good look. Not much of a flying saucer after all, he thought.
“Shirley Red 1, speeds variable 80 to six-zero-zero-zero knots,” the controller pronounced with even more precision than usual.
“Damn, that’s a lot a zeros! Copy six-thousand knots?”
“That’s affirmative, Shirley Red 1. Objects also show extreme maneuverability including reverse turns with no loss of speed. Come to heading one-niner-five. Unidentified objects currently at an altitude of one-thousand-five-hundred feet. That will put you roughly in the middle of the pack. Sorry. That’s the best we can do. Try not to knock anything down.”
“Shirley Red 1, roger that. Heading one-niner-five, looking low.”
He calculated he would be approaching the bogies in approximately ten minutes, or 2325 hours.
“Shirley Red 1, Eggnog,” the controller said. “You are cleared to enter restricted airspace and cleared to maneuver as necessary.”
“Why, thanks, Eggnog! Copy room to work. Red 2, Red 1. Copy clearances?”
“Red 2, affirmative. Clear restricted, clear deck.”
“Trigger, you take the high road and I’ll take the low road and I’ll be in the bogies before you. Keep it extra loose. These gophers can pop up anywhere.”
“Red 1, roger. I’ll give you plenty of elbow room, Caveman.”
“You’re awful quiet back there, Brownie,” he told his radar operator. “Nothing yet?”
“Too much ground clutter. This thing was designed to find high-fliers. The lower you take us the better.”
“So tell me, how tall is the Washington Monument?”
“Washington Monument.” There was a pause. “You should be worrying about National Cathedral. Chart puts it at 676 feet. Must be on a hill.”
“Hell, we still got a good 900 feet clearance,” Caveman replied. “Eggnog, Shirley Red 1. Altimeter check.”
“Shirley Red 1, Eggnog. Three-zero-one-one inches.”
“Shirley Red 1, three-zero-one-one. Thanks.” He turned a knob on his altimeter two ticks so the window showed a barometric pressure of 30.11. The long needle that marked hundreds of feet corrected slightly as the mechanism behind the glowing face of the altimeter used the new entry to calculate the accurate number of feet above sea level.
“We’re at 2000 feet now. Talk to me, Brownie.”
“Nothing showing. I think I can get a lock on Truman from down here, though. Can you give me another 500 feet?”
“Heading down to 1500 feet,” he told Brownie. “Eggnog, Shirley Red 1. We could use some vectors up here.”
“Shirley Red 1, roger. Try heading one-two-five at 100 miles - disregard, fifty miles -”
“Got him,” said Brownie. “Heading one-two-five. He’s real slow at 5000 feet and 20 miles.”
Caveman pushed the throttle forward with his left hand and unconsciously tapped the guard over the trigger on his joystick. After a few minutes, he broadcast: “Eggnog, Shirley Red 1. We have visual on bright white and red object at 5000 feet. Are you seeing this down there?”
“Shirley Red 1, affirmative,” answered the controller. “Unidentified contact appears to be stationary.”
“Object stationary, roger,” Caveman confirmed. But a moment later to Brownie: “Dammit. Lost visual.”
“Vanished,” Brownie confirmed.
“Eggnog, Red 1. Where’d he go? Gimme vectors.”
“Red 1, Red 2.” It was Trigger. “We just got our own bogey back here, eight thousand feet. He’s about fifty yards off my starboard wingtip. Jeez. This thing is big. You couldn’t fit it into a baseball park.”
“Roger, coming upstairs, Trigger.”
Caveman advanced the throttle all the way to engage the afterburner and pulled the nose up in a climbing left turn until the G-forces were punishing. His Allison engine had been sucking fuel at an alarming rate during the low altitude spook chase. Now he was dumping even more fuel into his tailpipe. He glanced at his fuel gauge. He was already nearing bingo fuel: the amount it would take to make it back to New Castle.
“Eggnog, Red 1," Caveman grunted. "Good for now, but not making it home if this goes on much longer. Please think about nearby alternate.”
“Red 1, Eggnog, roger on alternate. Please keep us advised.”
“Eggnog, just pick a long piece of concrete,” Caveman shot back. “Fighter pilot kind of busy up here. We’re gonna to have to hand this thing off or take an alternate.”
“Shirley Red 2 with description," Trigger said. "Lens-shaped, looks like unpainted aluminum skin. White and red lights look like spots from outside of object, somehow, not light bulbs. No features visible. Closing for a better look. Now I can see panel joints and rivets. No different from anything out of Boeing or Lockheed. Dropping down for a look underneath. Now that’s different! Big ring on the belly, with possible turbine nested inside. Guessing both are turning. Outside ring is shooting some sparks. Closing, ten yards!”
“Keep your distance, Trigger,” warned Caveman.
“No, I mean it’s -” The transmission ended with an expletive.
“Close call,” came the welcome transmission from Trigger a few seconds later. “Had to evade the sonuvabitch. Coming back around for another look at the belly. He seems a little ticklish.”
“Eggnog, Red 1. Vectors!”
“Shirley Red 1, nothing on this end. Standby. Multiple objects. You should have visual. They’re everywhere.”
“I got the same thing,” Brownie said. “Now we’re out of them. Come back around, boss.”
“Shirley Red 1, Eggnog. They’ve all disappeared again.” Caveman could tell the nerves behind the calm professional voice of the controller were fraying. He looped up and over on his back to reverse course, then snapped a roll to put the fighter right side up.
“You’re not makin’ me puke tonight,” Brownie said and Caveman grinned behind his mask.
“Red 2 with visual again. Same object just popped in off the port wingtip. Twenty yards. Object is matching my speed. I’m pulling ahead and waggling my wings. Executing a shallow climb. Let’s see if he follows.”
“Got him,” said Brownie with satisfaction. “Come two-zero-zero, 6000 feet. Ten miles.”
“Red 1 has visual now,” Caveman radioed a couple of minutes later. “Just like Red 2 described," he continued as he got closer, "except no red lights. Closing from behind and below. Eggnog, Red 1 at bingo fuel. Repeat, bingo fuel.”
“Red 1, Eggnog. Roger bingo fuel. Orders are remain with object.”
“Red 1, Red 2. He’s matching my climb, maintaining distance. Somebody’s at the wheel of this thing. I’m going to make an easy right turn now.”
Caveman pulled the throttle back and slowed as he approached the enormous object from below and behind his wingman. “Trigger, coming in below you on your seven. Matching speed 200 knots. Observe object turning with you. Double rings on the belly, outside thinner, shedding sparks, inside wider. Now he’s gone again. How the Hell can he blink all over the place like that?”
“Red 1, Eggnog,” radioed the controller. “Unidentified object at your zero-three-five, fifteen miles, one thousand feet.”
Caveman took a deep breath as he turned to the new heading. “Shirley Red 1, roger. Coming zero-three-five. Descending to 800 feet. Altimeter still three-zero-one-one, right?” There was no room for error this low.
“That’s affirmative, Red 1. Three-zero-one-one.”
“Trigger,” Caveman radioed, “put some miles and altitude between you and the bogey then cruise back on my reciprocal heading.”
“Roger, Caveman. Extending and coming back right at ya.”
“Shirley Red 1, Eggnog,” said the controller. Caveman detected something new in his voice. “Be advised object is stationary. We show it over the, ah, over the White House.”
“Got him!” said Brownie. “Stationary fat target. That’s our spook. Watch your closure.”
“He’s spooky, all right,” complained Caveman over the intercom. Whatever it was, it could only be engaged on its terms. “Eggnog, roger, object now stationary over the White House. Trigger, I’m going in slow for a look.”
“Roger. I’m five miles ahead of you at three thousand. And Shirley Red 2 at bingo fuel.”
“Red 1 has visual. Saucer bigger than White House by maybe a quarter of the length. Lit up like the Lincoln Memorial. Coming in above object and doing slow right orbit at fifty yards and two-hundred feet.” Then he added over the intercom, “Got your camera out, Brownie?”
“Eggnog, Red 1 stepping on the brakes for a good look at the belly of the great fish.” Still circling above the saucer, Caveman throttled back and extended the F-94’s flaps by the numbers as he slowed. Then he lowered his landing gear to add more drag until his speed was just 120 knots. It was as slow as he could go without risking a stall and a short drop onto the White House lawn.
Just as he had started descending a dark circle appeared in the center of the top, and a turret popped up with twin guns.
“Watch it! Turret on top! Repeat, he got guns!”
“Red 2. Request permission to engage,” Trigger radioed.
“Red 2, Eggnog, negative, negative. No shooting we’re being told.”
“Tell that to him,” Caveman broadcast as he raised his landing gear. “Red 1 descending. Clearing top -”
We’re dead, flashed through his mind.
Before his eyes, an identical turret popped out from the bottom of the craft in the center of the broad inner "turbine" ring. He was a close, slow target. He could not run, he could not dive away and could not even perform evasive maneuvers without stalling.
“Turret on the bottom, too” Caveman radioed. “Red 1’s a sitting duck.”
“Red 2 engaging hostile. Guns! Guns! Guns!” Trigger yelled into his mic.
“Negative!” yelled Caveman. “Stop shooting, Trigger!”
“Turret tracking us,” Brownie said. He had twisted around to watch behind. “Still tracking.”
For many agonizing seconds Caveman waited to be disintegrated or whatever the science fiction weapon did, but the space men seemed to be permitting him to fly away. He was retracting his flaps as fast as he could and picking up speed. He began jinking to throw off the aim of the turret gunner and began to gain enough altitude to screen the bottom turret with the diameter of its own ship.
“Trigger, I’m clearing turret! Break off attack!”
“Damn!” exclaimed Brownie, who was still looking over his shoulder. “Top turret has picked us up now! Get us outta here!”
Caveman continued jinking as he finished raising flaps and steadily advanced his throttle.
“Turret rotating away from us now,” Brownie announced, relief in his voice.
“Red 2, break! Top turret on you now!” Caveman radioed his wingman. The top turret gunner had apparently decided to go after the shooter. It was frustrating flying away from the action, away from his wingman. He engaged his afterburner to gain distance and altitude for a come-around.
“Lost sight of hostile,” Brownie reported. Trigger had not been heard from since announcing his attack.
“Shirley flight, Eggnog. Be advised you are ordered to cease fire. Repeat, cease fire.”
“Red 1, Red 2,” Trigger finally radioed to his leader. “Confirm turrets have guns. Bogey engaged me with twenty mike mike cannon or close enough. We took some damage. Standby.”
By now, Caveman had gained both the altitude and distance he needed, and was coming back around above the touchy craft from the east.
“Eggnog, Red 1. We have a hostile of unknown origin over the damn White House that has fired on us. Request permission to engage.”
“Negative, Red 1. Stand by.”
“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! Red 2 requests nearest for emergency landing.”
The request was met with silence.
“Eggnog, Red 1. Red 2 has declared emergency and requests nearest. Did you copy?” Caveman slowed and fixed his eyes on the center top of the saucer. The top turret was invisible at this distance, but Caveman saw it perfectly in his imagination.
Another few seconds passed as Caveman closed and the airwaves were quiet for the first time in minutes. At last, the answer came.
“Shirley Red 2, negative on emergency landing. Are you able Chesapeake Bay?”
“Eggnog, Shirley Red 2. Are you talking about an airfield?”
“Ah, Shirley Red 2, Eggnog. Negative. They mean the water.”
“Eggnog, Shirley Red 2, unable Chesapeake Bay. I can see Washington National. Declaring emergency. Request KDCA runway one-niner.”
“Shirley Red 2, negative. Turn heading zero-two-zero and attempt to draw unidentified object away from restricted airspace.”
“Eggnog, Red 1. Did you not hear the man? He’s unable Chesapeake Bay. Where the Hell’s he supposed to land in that direction?”
“Red 2, you have your orders” said Eggnog, not sounding at all happy. “They say avoid ground casualties at all costs.”
Trigger was being ordered to commit suicide and Caveman did not need to know why.
“Shirley Red 2, Red 1. Disregard civilian controller. I am ordering you to land KDCA one-niner. Breaking off approach to object. Changing frequency. National Tower. Please look to the north.”
“Unidentified aircraft, please identify yourself.”
National Airport was just three miles from downtown D.C.. Personnel in the tower saw a meteor streaking toward them. They ducked as it rattled their windows with a roar and blazed to the south. They watched as the burning dot shot into the sky.
“This is Air Force F-94 fighter jet with four fifty caliber machine guns. I got plenty of ammo to go around gents.” What followed was a profanity-laced transmission to the effect of, Clear runway 19 for emergency landing now or the next thing I send will be lead. I am not kidding.
There was a pause.
“This is National Tower. Roger, F-94 jet. Clearing one-niner for emergency landing. Happy to be of assistance.”
“Trigger, handing you off to National Tower,” Caveman broadcast. “Expect clearance emergency landing runway one-niner. You have your orders from me.”
“Eggnog handing off Shirley Red 2 to National Tower,” the controller answered. If he was trying to keep the smile out of his voice he did not succeed.
Caveman decided these civilian controllers were not so bad.
“Looks like The Day the Earth Stood Still is all yours, Caveman. Thanks. Good night, Eggnog. Shirley Red 2 changing frequency to National Tower.”
“Hey, Brownie, what did Trigger mean about the earth standing still?”
“Movie about some superior race from another planet landing in Washington and setting us straight.”
“Is that so?” Caveman replied. “Eggnog, Shirley Red 1 closing on hostile again.” He flipped the guard covering the trigger on his joystick.
“Shirley Red 1, do not engage object. They say they really mean it.”
“Eggnog, tell ‘em if they’re gonna hang me anyway, I might as well have some fun.”
The brightly lit object suddenly went dark. Is it possible they're listening? Caveman wondered.
“Brownie, they’ve turned off the lights. She’s all yours.”
“Got him. Reduce speed and come zero-niner-zero once over White House. Hostile has started moving to the east slow.”
Caveman broke due east over the White House and, under Brownie's sure guidance, approached the hostile. He would roll right and bob up, then drop down, rolling one direction or the other before appearing before a turret several degrees off his previous position. Occasionally, a glowing stream of cannon fire would erupt from one turret or the other, but it always just missed.
“Keep talking, Brownie. We're playing peekaboo in the blind spot. Every time they shoot they’re showing me right where the turret is.” The enemy tracers were burned into his retina and into his memory.
At last, when the bulk of the saucer filled his windscreen, he extended his speed brakes and dropped below it one more time. The bottom turret rotated to acquire them, but suddenly, Caveman rolled violently to the right, brought his wings level, and bobbed up, nearly colliding with the rim of the saucer as he cleared the bottom turret.
He was flying a little faster than his target, although still slow. When he flicked his eyes down, all he saw was aluminum skin a few feet beneath him. As he had cleared the rim, he was already kicking his rudder over, yawing the nose of his fighter to the left. The F-94 was flying in one direction, but pointed several degrees to the left for an instant.
The four machine guns in its nose were lined up with the top turret.
From fifty feet - not a blink away - he could see that the turret was clear, like a turret on a B-17. It was illuminated from within by a faint red glow.
The top turret was rotating to bring its twin cannons to bear but it was too slow. The gunner, realizing the danger, prematurely let loose a double fountain of glowing shells that passed harmlessly off the left wingtip of the F-94.
Simultaneously, smaller .50 caliber tracers poured into it like a swarm of deadly fireflies. Fragments of what might have been Plexiglas flew from the disintegrating turret as the jet accelerated and climbed away.
“Guns, guns, guns,” Caveman broadcast in a calm voice. “Ma Deuce says welcome to Earth. Scratch top turret on hostile.” With a glance at his fuel gauge, he extended away, then reversed to come at it from a different quarter.
“Eggnog, Red 1 declaring a fuel emergency. Request Washington National runway one-niner.”
It could blink, it could fly 6000 knots, it could change direction like a billiard ball off a cushion, and it could come to a dead stop. And yet it was moving slowly to the east, trusting imperfectly designed defensive armament and a dark night that did not hide it from Brownie’s magic eyes.
“Red 1, Eggnog, understand fuel emergency. Cleared Washington National runway one-niner. Stay with object as long as possible.”
“Roger,” Caveman said. He did not need to be told. He wanted his name on this catch.
“This thing is acting like it’s operated by a committee,” he told Brownie over the intercom. “It’s gonna be close on fuel, buddy. If I blow the canopy, you eject. You hear me?”
“I hear you.”
“Don’t jump the gun on me, young’n. I don’t wanna land with an embarrassing hole in my canopy and have to inform that pretty bride of yours she married an idiot.”
“Eggnog, Red 1,” Caveman broadcast. “These guys belong on the Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour. It’s like you bolted turrets on a Connie. The gunners were not talking to each other. There’s something fishy about this. And I don’t believe that fan on the bottom is holding it up, either. Going downstairs, now for the other turret.”
When he dropped down to uncover the bottom turret, it did not even move. The gunner had probably abandoned his weapon.
“Guns, guns, guns,” he broadcast again. “Scratch bottom turret. Hostile no longer a shooting threat unless he’s holding out on us. Coming back around just off his 11 o’clock high.” Then he told Brownie, “After you get us back, look over your shoulder and see if you can spot a driver.”
A few minutes later, when the fighter was in the announced position, Brownie twisted around again. “Something’s illuminated, and I don’t think it’s got guns. Looks like a bubble canopy stuck onto the forward top fuselage like a B-36. Can you get us any closer? Damn.”
“What’s the matter?”
“Out of film.”
“Hey, Brownie, why don’t you stow that camera someplace no one will look.”
“What if they ask?”
“Let your conscience be your guide. But something tells me we’re not going to be welcomed back as heroes.”
“You mean you’re not an ace after all?”
“I mean I don’t know if they’re going to want any witnesses. Call me nuts, but something tells me somebody’s been keeping the truth under a blanket.”
“I think you’re nuts,” Brownie said, “but I’ll consider the request.”
“Red 1 waggling his wings and flashing external lights. One. Two. Three. Strike your colors you big dumb bastard. You’re licked.”
The odd, diffuse white hull light blinked back on, off - three times - and remained on. It followed the fighter like a docile giant glowing white sheep.
“Eggnog, Shirley Red 1. Time to have Andrews light up the biggest patch of flat land they got for a ship at least 200 feet in diameter. Maybe a ring of headlights. If it can hover over the White House, I bet it can land like a helicopter. And be ready to receive guests and provide medical assistance. Major Clark Ruffler, United States Air Force, delivering captured space ship intact to Andrews.” The more people who know, the harder it will be to make us go away.
He switched frequencies. “National Tower, Shirley Red 1, a.k.a. crazy F-94 fighter jet. Have you returned my wingman’s broken airplane to the taxpayers?”
“National Tower, be advised crew is fine. Runway one-niner cleared and will remain free of traffic for just as long as you want. And there’s one more thing.”
Caveman and Brownie heard the sound of applause and cheering over the radio.
“Hey, tower, thanks. See you soon, but first I gotta finish up here. I’m on fumes so we’ll have one shot at a landing. If we’re lucky.”
“Sally Blue 1 to Shirley Red 1.” The new call sign could not have been more welcome. “We’ll take your prize in for you. Get yourself to a runway before you ditch in the reflecting pool. Coming up on your six right now.”
“Sally Blue 1, Shirley Red 1. Your timing is perfect. If she gives you any trouble, just tell her Ma Deuce ain’t takin’ no sass from space men tonight. She’s all yours.”
“You know Brownie,” Caveman said as they descended to Washington National, “I think I did see Trigger’s movie about the master race telling everyone how it was going to be. I didn’t like it the first time, either.”
The events surrounding the July, 1952 weekend "invasion" of radar-reflecting lights over Washington D.C. are as well-known as they are confused. The accuracy of the story behind the Washington Post's famous headline "Pilot Says 'Saucer Outran Jet'"is subject to doubt on several points.
The Korean War demanded fighters and pilots, and they were being shipped overseas piecemeal. Air National Guard units had been federalized, and were swapping WWII era fighters for the latest jets. The air defense of the continental U.S. was being reorganized and the "Air Force" itself was a brand new branch of service, separate from WWII's "Army Air Corps." With Andrews Air Force Base out of commission, its fighter interceptors were temporarily based in Delaware.
It is no wonder it took three hours for the Pentagon to respond to the threat. They might have been trying to find their airplanes!
It is difficult to say with certainty which Fighter Intercept Wing or pilots were actually scrambled on the two weekends. Information made available through official and other public sources is conflicting. The author suspects there is more than a little official disinformation surrounding the flying saucer mania.
The story above is an interpretation of what might have happened based on extensive research. It implies a question: could UFOs have an origin other than a super-advanced race from another planet? The sequel to Judging Angels has the answer, although it falls into the category of essential background rather than plot.
Unidentified Flying Objects were everywhere in the late '40s and early '50s. The hit movie, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" portrayed the space men as stern big brothers, peaceful at heart, but not afraid to threaten the human race with extinction if they did not curb their violent tendencies. In fact Michael Rennie's famous "Mr. Carpenter" is depicted as a Christ figure.
If Americans were being prepared for a "friendly takeover," the big-budget science fiction movie from Twentieth Century Fox could hardly have been better propaganda.
If Caveman, relying on instincts honed by flying against German pilots over Europe, really did spoil their big entrance, he changed history.
The new A-Bomb had brought to a close the war against Japan, but Americans did not long enjoy their monopoly on the fearsome weapon. The author well remembers the "duck and cover" drills in elementary school into the '60s, where his desk provided optimistic protection against the Russian Bomb. It is difficult for people who did not grow up in the early days of the Cold War to realize the seriousness with which Americans took the threat of atomic attack by Russia.
As an aside, President Truman had officially integrated the armed forces in 1948. The new Air Force proved one of the more successful models of integration at the time. There are many stories of a group of white Air Force men occupying a diner while saying "a buddy will be joining us later." When the buddy turned out to be black, sometimes all Hell would break loose.
The Air Force tended to turn a blind eye to the overeager implementation of the spirit of President Truman's integration order. From the author's experience as a Navy JAG officer at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, military pilots live hard by their own rules, which is why Navy "brown shoes" - aviators - made coveted, very understanding members for the defense on courts martial panels.